When the newsstand of Giuseppe Trani was swept away by disastrous flooding that devastated the southern Italian town of Casamicciola at the end of November, the 70-year-old man lost everything. Not for long, though, as the townsfolk, who were also affected by the flooding and landslides experienced throughout the whole region, raised the funds needed to help Trani rebuild his kiosk.
Moreover, when a five-year-old Moroccan boy, Rayan Oram, fell into a well in the impoverished northern Chefchaouen province, tens of millions followed the story with trepidation throughout Africa, the Middle East and, eventually, around the world. The fact that the story had a sorrowful ending may have distracted some of us from the realisation that little Rayan had unwittingly united us in hope and prayer, despite our seemingly insurmountable differences.
It is incorrect, let alone unfair and fatalistic, therefore, to associate the “human condition” with nothing but greed, selfishness and propensity to violence. Although a case can be made for the latter, especially in 2022 — wherein our collective self-awareness was shaped largely by war, famine and deadly pandemics — that understanding only tells a part of the story.
Years of crushed political aspirations, resulting from revolts and political upheavals throughout the Middle East, have been followed by years of a lethal pandemic that left already shattered economies on the brink of complete collapse. However, a few precious moments of unity served as a reminder that, despite our individual or collective woes, we all belong to a greater whole and that, somehow, our fates are all connected.
Rayan, the Gaza Strip, football triumphs, spiritual occasions and numerous little and large defeats and victories keep reminding us that we are a community; we mourn and celebrate together, and no war or pandemic is great enough to crush the indefatigable human spirit.
The thousands of sanctions imposed on Russia following the start of the Russia-Ukraine war on 24 February last year have had minimal impact on Moscow itself. Instead, it was the poorest Europeans and, predictably, many in the Global South who have paid the heavy price of the unprecedented disruption of energy supplies.
When the war began, the global economy was barely in motion post-pandemic, which had ground many national economies almost to a halt, severely affecting supply chains of many essential items, including food. The war made matters far worse, doubling inflation worldwide, although hitting already vulnerable countries much harder than others.
“Absolute levels of global hunger in 2022 could be the highest ever,” the Economist reported. The repercussions of this painful truth are already being felt in many parts of the world, but are likely to be manifested in terms of violence and political instability in 2023.
Yet, there is always a silver lining. The same way that Giuseppe Trani’s kind neighbours helped to rebuild his ruined kiosk, the global hardships are also inspiring global solidarity among small nations. A whole new world order is emerging, where alternative economic blocs, like BRICS for example, are forming or expanding. Middle Eastern countries, which have revolved around US political priorities for decades, are finding margins of freedom. African nations, like Mali and the Central African Republic, are daring to stand up to their former colonisers.
Never since the collapse of the Soviet Union have such political margins and opportunities opened up for many countries around the world, allowing for badly needed respite, a breathing space to think outside the imposed parameters of the West. This is true for Africa and the Middle East, as well as South America.
Despite years of intense pressure and isolation, the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro has survived miraculously, albeit it is hanging by a thread. The plight of Venezuelans seemed too extreme for even the new global geopolitics to affect it in a tangible way. However, Venezuela, whose poverty rate hit 65.2 per cent in 2021, has also found itself a beneficiary of changing political dynamics. On 26 November, the US authorised the oil company Chevron to resume production through its joint ventures in Venezuela, allowing Caracas to start selling more oil in the global market.
“The changing political dynamics in the Western Hemisphere mean a reformulation of the Bolivarian project, not in terms of doctrine, but rather in the relationship with the multipolar world,”, wrote Venezuelan analyst Carlos Delgado Flores in The Dialogue.
Equally important, the quest for regional independence of South American countries is once more feasible, with Santiago, Brasilia, Bogota and others having — or about to have — progressive governments.
Also back on the table is a free trade area that will unify the whole African continent, which is expected to take effect in 2023. This single market will give African countries much greater leverage to negotiate fair trade agreements with the rest of the world, something that can definitely be described as a game changer.
Of course, these positive changes will be fought every step of the way by those who want to maintain the self-serving status quo and the unipolar world order. That is both predictable and to be expected.
We are not doomed to define ourselves by a “human condition” in which change is not possible and where greed, selfishness and monopoly always prevail over the need for fairness, generosity and equality. And those who are able to rebuild the life of Giuseppe Trani and those like them are capable of reshaping the world into a better place for all of us, in 2023 and for many more years to come.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.